About museum services

Since 1836, public interest in the history, archaeology and natural history of the county was well established with a museum building opening in 1874. 

The museum service has evolved over the years since the founding of the Hereford Museum in the 1870s. From 1998 it was called Herefordshire Heritage Services and since August 2012 the name Herefordshire Museum Service has been adopted.

The collections, numbering around 100,000 objects, are in the ownership of Herefordshire Council with a small quantity, 0.1 percent, being on loan. The collections comprise archaeology, social history, costume and textiles, fine art, decorative art and furniture, documents and photographs, numismatics, arms and armour, ethnography, natural sciences including geology. Some of the collections are available to search online.

Herefordshire Museum Service is committed to providing the widest possible access to the collections without putting the collections at risk. This access is seen in the broadest sense, and includes display, educational activity, and information via digital and paper-based media.

Costume and textile

The collection is of national significance with items from the 17th century to the present. It includes some fine examples of 18th century women's and men's dress, a comprehensive range of men's, women's and children's costume from the 19th century, and a group of 19th-20th century agricultural smocks.

Fine art

The collection features a significant number of early English watercolours, mainly landscapes, dating from the late 18th to mid 19th centuries. It has a relatively rich selection of work from artists with local associations, particularly the work of First World War artist Brian Hatton, and includes some works from national and internationally famous artists such as JMW Turner. Prints from the 18th century, and wood engravings are also well represented. Decorative art features some good quality studio ceramics and a range of other pottery, glass and silverware. The furniture collections include an important group of 17th and 18thcentury domestic oak furniture on display in the Old House and 19th century chairs by Phillip Clissett of Bosbury. 

Natural history

Amongst the collection, the geology, herbarium and parts of the invertebrate collections are the most important. Some parts of these are of national significance. There are good local entomological specimens and a local collection of vertebrates including a fine sturgeon caught in the River Wye in the mid 19th century. 

Archaeological

The collections are primarily of Herefordshire origin and are particularly strong in the Iron Age and Roman periods. Material of Palaeolithic and Mesolithic date from King Arthur's Cave is of national significance, and there are some fine groups of prehistoric lithics particularly from the western hills in the county. There are substantial collections of excavated middle to late Saxon, Medieval and Post-Medieval collections from the city of Hereford, villages, towns, moated sites and castles. There is an expanding archaeological documentary archive relating to archaeological works in the county.

Social history

The collection is large and diverse, including local crafts, trades, agricultural implements, wheeled vehicles, numerous domestic artefacts and documentary archives. The collection is largely of 19th to 20th century date, but there is some 17th and 18th century material including an important group of ironwork. A collection of photographic equipment and items belonging to Alfred Watkins, a Victorian antiquarian, inventor and author of the Ley Line theory, is of local and national relevance.

The collection of photographs is an important resource for local imagery and past trades, and date from the mid-19th century to the present day.

The ethnographic collections are relatively small and represent the collections of individuals during the late 19th to 20th century.

The collection of numismatics is greatest in the area of Roman coinage, with two large hoards and individual coins recovered from the Roman town of Magna at Kenchester.

Arms and armour

The collection includes some fine Medieval and Civil War pieces including the famous Roaring Meg Mortar and its associated shell from the siege of Goodrich Castle currently on loan to English Heritage at Goodrich Castle.